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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane attorney resigns as state bar president a day before criminal warrant filed

This file photo shows attorney Robin Haynes, who has resigned as president of the Washington State Bar Association. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane attorney Robin Haynes resigned Sunday as president of the Washington State Bar Association a day before a search warrant was filed seeking to charge her with three counts of second-degree theft.

The warrant, filed Monday by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, follows a bar complaint filed by her former law firm, McNeice Wheeler.

Becki Wheeler, a partner at McNeice Wheeler where Haynes worked as an attorney up until Jan. 31, declined to talk about the matter while the criminal investigation was underway. She also would not discuss the nature of the investigation or what prompted the bar complaint.

“I can’t comment,” Wheeler said.

Haynes, 39, who last year became the youngest lawyer to hold the bar association position, did not respond to a request for an interview.

However, her attorney, Roy Umlauf of Seattle, said he and his client were not aware of a warrant seeking the second-degree theft charges until he learned it from a reporter. He also would not discuss the nature of the bar complaint filed by McNeice Wheeler.

“We can’t really comment on a pending WSBA investigation,” Umlauf said. “But there haven’t been any complaints filed by any clients.”

As for her former employer, Umlauf said: “They are currently trying to work out the transition issues related to her departure from the firm. I don’t want to jeopardize negotiations regarding that transition.”

Haynes, who also previously worked for the Spokane firm Witherspoon Kelley, left McNeice Wheeler on Jan. 31 and started her own law firm called GIANTLegal.

Asked why she would be the subject of a criminal search warrant, Umlauf said: “I don’t know.”

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Mark Gregory said late Monday that he had not been briefed about the criminal investigation into Haynes and had nothing to add.

Umlauf said the Washington State Bar Association offices are located in Seattle, which required Haynes to often travel west to take care of bar association business. Haynes is also dealing with a loved one who has health issues, Umlauf said.

“Robin is disappointed that she is not finishing her term,” he said. “But, she decided that family and clients come first.”

Bradford Furlong, who was serving as president-elect, wrote in a news release that he will fulfill the remainder of Haynes’ term through September.

“I take up the duties of President a bit earlier than anticipated but with enthusiasm,” Furlong wrote in the news release. “I particularly want to thank Robin Haynes for her dedicated leadership to this organization over the past seven years, both as the New and Younger At-Large Board member and in her presidential duties.”

Haynes is also past president of the Spokane County Bar Association’s Young Lawyer Division and a former board member for the Spokane County Volunteer Lawyers Program. In 2012, she was named the WSBA’s Outstanding Young Lawyer of the Year.

As for the complaints filed with the state bar association, Paula Littlewood responded to questions by email to say the bar association wouldn’t comment.

“Because information regarding grievances filed against a lawyer is made confidential by Court rule, we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of a grievance against a lawyer,” Littlewood wrote.